Naturalistic Materialism: an untenable world-view
I have recently been engaged in a number of online discussions with Atheist Darwinians, and most have been severely hindered as a result of them truly not seeing the full implications of their own world-view, not having a good philosophical understanding of logic, nor understanding that philosophical ‘modernism’ is long dead. The problem is this: if there is no God, and all you have is a modernist naturalistic understanding of ‘truth’, you can only use circular reasoning to justify your findings, while the whole time arguing against the use of circular reasoning within other world-views – which is pure hypocricy.
I agree wholeheartedly with Philosopher of Science, Karl Popper, when he says, “I reject the naturalistic view: It is uncritical. Its upholders fail to notice that whenever they believe to have discovered a fact, they have only proposed a convention. Hence the convention is liable to turn into a dogma. This criticism of the naturalistic view applies not only to its criterion of meaning, but also to its idea of science, and consequently to its idea of scientific method.” Though many self-proclaimed ‘skeptics’ adhere to naturalism, the problem with their skepticism is that they do not turn it to the foundations of their own worldview, which crumble under their own weight of being unprovable on it’s own terms.
Essentially, naturalism is like saying “I believe only in a, b, & c as truth, and will accept as fact only things that line up with a, b, & c”, and then being suprised, and overjoyed, when discovering that you so-called ‘facts’ – SURPRISE – support a, b, & c! The reasoning is circular – which isn’t , in itself bad (it’s often necessary, within a post-modern epistimology), yet the whole enterprise of naturalism rejects circular reasoning, leaving naturalism internally inconsistent, and thus untenable. Isn’t that at the heart of what we know as ‘logic’ – internal consistency?
Secondly, if naturalistic Darwinian evolution is assumed to be the ‘guiding force’ behind all that is, including our minds, chances are so slim as to be impossible – with a mind as such forces as chance & time would produce – that any ‘facts’ as they actually correspond to reality-as-it-is, let alone metaphysical, philosophical, and ‘ultimate’ answers, would be trustworthy.
Regarding this very issue, Charles Darwin himself wrote:
“With me, the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would anyone trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind…?”
(Charles Darwin, Letter to William Graham, Down, July 3rd, 1881.)
Alvin Plantinga, one of the world’s leading philosophers and an expert on epistimology (the study of how we know what we know) and the philosophy of science, argues that there are no good reasons to suppose that natural selection (naturalistic Darwinian Evolution) is truth-conducive, that is, generally trustworthy or successful in producing ‘minds’ with the ability to reliably perceive and understand the external world let alone to mentally construct even semi-accurate worldviews. He quotes contemporary philosopher of mind and philosophical naturalist Patricia Churchland to buttress this claim, “She insists that the most important thing about the human brain is that it has evolved; this means, she says, that its principal function is to enable the organism to move appropriately: Boiled down to essentials, a nervous system enables the organism to succeed in the four F’s: feeding, fleeing, fighting and ‘reproducing’. The principle chore of nervous systems is to get the body parts where they should be in order that the organism may survive…Improvements in sensorimotor control confer an evolutionary advantage: a fancier style of representing is advantageous so long as it is geared to the organism’s way of life and enhances the organism’s chances of survival. Truth, whatever that is, definitely takes the hindmost.” (Alvin Plantinga, from “Naturalism Defeated”)
Plantinga is basically pointing out that if philosophical naturalism denies the possibility that reality is guided or directed somehow (say, toward the creation of humans with reliable cognitive faculties) and if evolution selects only for survival value, it is highly unlikely that naturalistic evolution (unguided chance & time) would yield an evolved mind that accurately perceive reality, and therefore CAN know ‘facts’, apart from those most basic to survival – again, the four ‘F’s. If an individual is a pure Darwinian, they have no truly rational REASON to believe that they have reliable ‘cognitive faculties’, and therefore any theorizing from that point always stands upon a ‘leap of faith’ that their mind is properly engaging the world around them – with no real available evidence, apart from the fact that ‘it seems to work for me’ to ground that belief. As a result, “asserting that naturalistic evolution is true is also asserting that one has a low probability of being right in any of his assertions.” (Wikipedia) Quoting from another commenting on this same topic, “Ascribing truth to naturalism and evolution becomes self-referentially incoherent.”
That is why I do not trust naturalistic science’s approach to what is ‘fact’ – it’s incoherent, & self-contradictory – simply a ‘leap of faith’ within a system of thought/belief that discourages said ‘leaps of faith’ and is therefore internally inconsistent and proves itself not only untrue, but with no possiblity of being true.
Don’t get me wrong, Science as historically practiced, is a field of study not necessariy grounded in naturalism/materialism – it can be very well argued that the scientific method not only grew out of a judea-christian-islamic (western religious) worldview, but that it wouldn’t have developed at all without it, and it is ultimately within this context that it’s findings make the most sense. In recent interviews all hands-on experimental scientists interviews said that the theory of Darwinism, and naturalistic evolution, has absolutely no effect – positively or negatively – on their work, and without it they’d still do the exact same work that they’ve been at all along. Trust me, I absolutely LOVE the Sciences, but the modern emphasis in some circles (mostly Biological Sciences) on Naturalism/Materialism I think we can ALL do without.
Note: I have not said that a naturalistic approach to scientific inquiry will never yield any true results – there may be cases in which the results of such inquiry may be true, even though it’s underlying philosophical assumptions are suspect. Hence, there are Scientific theories of human origins I find helpful and partially convincing, whose proponents may not agree with the above article.